Austria through the eyes of Vietnamese translator of Franz Schubert's “Winterreise”

(VOVWORLD) - Austria is famous for the Alps, cities like Vienna and Salzburg, and classical music. It’s also known for skiing, being the home of Red Bull energy drinks, and famous dishes like Wiener Schnitzel and Sachertorte. These and many other things impressed Chu Thu Phuong, First Secretary of the Vietnamese Embassy in Austria and translator of "Winterreise” (Winter Journey), Franz Schubert's challenging song cycle, into Vietnamese. Winterreise in Vietnamese recently premiered at the Opera in der Krypta in Vienna.  
Austria through the eyes of Vietnamese translator of Franz Schubert's “Winterreise” - ảnh 1Translator Chu Thu Phuong 

Bao Tram: Thank you, Ms. Phuong, for joining VOV’s Cultural Rendezvous today. Ms. Phuong who is now the First Secretary of the Vietnamese Embassy in Austria, translated, with poet Ngo Tu Lap, Franz Schubert's cycle "Winterreise” into Vietnamese.  

Thu Phuong: Thank you for inviting me to the show to share with VOV’s listeners about Austria.

Bao Tram: I know that you’ve been living and working in Austria. What has impressed you most about Austria?

Thu Phuong: Thank you for your question. You ask me what impresses me in Austria. Well, there are many things that would impress you in Austria. First is the beauty of the nature, the richness of the nature, especially the mountains. It's also the beauty of the architecture here; the richness of its history; the innovative people here. For example, I'm very impressed by Dr Ignaz Semmelweis who's teaching us to wash our hands and even up to now in the corona days it’s very important to wash the hands. And of course, the thing most people are talking about in Austria is music, especially classical music. Classical music and its love did make Austria the chosen homeland of many famous composers, singers, and musicians - Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms were German; pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja is Russian. The musical star Olive Moorefield is American - and so on. There are also many other famous people who did choose Austria to be their home, like architect Theophil Hansen from Denmark, and furniture manufacturer Michael Thonet from Germany.  

Bao Tram: For many people, especially Vietnamese, to talk about Austria is to talk about classical music and world-famous classical composers. Franz Schubert is one. Do you think Franz Schubert’s music reflects the culture of Austria? Tell us your thoughts and feelings about Schubert’s music and his “Winter Journey” cycle.

Thu Phuong: Well, I would like to say, especially about Franz Schubert’s song “Der Lindenbaum”, that it describes the soul of the Austrian people. Lindenbaum is like a home to come back to. It's like you come here and you find your peace; you come here and you find your home here. “Winterreise” is the most specific. It's the story of a young man whose lover did leave him to marry a rich man. He felt depressed and decided to leave the town where he once laughed, to go to a “nowhere” place in the middle of the ice and snow. Here and there he sees glimmers of happiness, of his beloved past. But he's heading toward death. There’s an indescribable beauty in this hopeless and depressive cycle of 24 songs – and a cold, frozen hopelessness. Of course, you must take the dangerou journey to death. That’s part of our life. You have to face it. You can’t escape it. And it’s beautiful.

Bao Tram: Why did you decide to translate Schubert’s "Winter Journey” rather than some other classical piece?

Thu Phuong: Well the reason why is “Der Lindenbaum”. In a walking tour around Vienna, I encountered the Schubert linden. And I was very curious why it had Schubert’s name. I found out that there is not just one Schubert linden, but hundreds of them in Austria. That was the first time I felt the importance of lindenbaum in the culture of Austria. Then I got to know that Schubert did compose a song with the name lindenbaum and the song was so famous that it becomes a feeling of home in Austria. I listened to it and, at once, fall in love with it. Later on, I found out that it's the fifth song in a cycle of 24 songs, the "Winterreise”. It was stunningly beautiful so I decided at once this was what I wanted to show my country’s people to express the beauty of Austria.

Austria through the eyes of Vietnamese translator of Franz Schubert's “Winterreise” - ảnh 2

Bao Tram:  What is the highlight of Schubert’s “Winter Journey” in your opinion?

Thu Phuong: Throughout “Winterreise” there is a feeling of letting go not, caring anymore, nothing matters. It’s as though the poet went through the entire range of emotions, a dying soul is reminiscing about life before everything shatters into a vast land of death an depression covered by snow. In order to translate "Winterreise”, one must become a dying soul, too. There were times I couldn't take it anymore. I felt depressed, stuck. It almost seemed impossible to continue the translation, so I just cried the whole night. However, being able to discuss and share this heavy build-up of emotions with the people in our team aided my mentality a lot. Through them, I regained my strength and ability to continue the translation.

Bao Tram: Thank you, Ms. Phuong, for joining us on VOV’s Cultural Rendezvous today and sharing with us your thoughts and feelings about Austria and Franz Schubert's cycle "Winterreise”.

Thu Phuong: I really enjoyed talking with you. It’s my pleasure to be on your program for the interview. Thank you.